By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
While there haven’t yet been any confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Western Pa., precautions meant to slow the spread of this strain of the coronavirus have definitely arrived. We will update this story with the latest news and major cancellations.
News for March 13, 2020
Update: 1:05 p.m.: Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, who is being challenged by Emily Kinkead for his house seat sent out a press release saying that he was going to “halt face-to-face interactions.” He urged other candidates in all races to do the same thing. According to a release:
Update: 12:30 p.m.: Here are some updates from our friends in governmental services.
County Controller Chelsa Wagner is permitting employees whose presence in the office is not necessary to do their jobs, can work from home.
“Beginning Monday, Controller’s Office employees whose attendance at the office is not essential will be permitted to work remotely until further notice. Those who need to report to work will be permitted flexible scheduling to allow for commuting at off-peak times, and to provide care for family members whose schools, daycares, or senior facilities may be closed,” Wagner said in a statement. “This is in keeping with the values with which I have always sought to lead my office, which was the first known public office in Pennsylvania to provide paid family leave to all employees, a policy which has been followed by a number of other local government entities.”
Many elected officials are making changes in light of the covid-19 outbreak. State Sen. Lindsey Williams and state Rep. Sara Innamorato are closing their offices to the public and switching candidate services to phone and email.
Senator Williams’ constituents are encouraged to contact her office between the hours of 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday at 412-364-0469 for any constituent issues, including questions about the COVID-19 response. Assistance can also be obtained via email at SenatorLindseyWilliams@
Representative Innamorato’s constituents are encouraged to contact her office between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Monday – Friday at 412-781-2750 for questions, concerns, or requests for assistance. The office can also be obtained via email at RepInnamorato@pahouse.net.
Update: 11:50 a.m.: Gov. Tom Wolf will be giving a live briefing this afternoon at 12:45 p.m. on the efforts to stop the widespread of the coronavirus. You can view that here.
A number of events continue to be canceled. Most recently, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and the National Council of Jewish Women have canceled their annual “Project Prom Giveaway Days,” in “light of the probability that Allegheny County will have presumptive positive cases of COVID-19.”
The program annually provides free prom attire to students. Gown Giveaway Days were supposed to take place March 21 – 28. Organizers are disappointed, according to a press release, but believe the decision is in the best interest of public health. Project Prom will resume next year.
News for March 12, 2020
Update: 9:15 p.m.: The annual Sunstar festival featured on the cover of this week’s Pittsburgh Current has been canceled.
Update: 2:16 p.m.: The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association is putting at least a two-week pause into its winter sports championships due to covid-19. According to a release:
PIAA Board of Directors decided this morning by a unanimous vote to suspend the PIAA
basketball and AA boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving championships for minimally a two
week period. The AAA swimming and diving championships at Bucknell University have been
truncated with limited spectators and will conclude at the end of today’s mid-afternoon diving
session. The Board of Directors, in consultation with various health departments, believes this
action is in the best interest of our member schools, their student-athletes, sports officials and the
PIAA, by enforcing a two–week hiatus from our basketball and AA swimming championships,
believes this action will allow schools time to perform self-assessments and make decisions to
promote optimal health conditions in their communities.
PIAA Executive Director, Dr. Robert A. Lombardi, stated; “The Board of Directors’ are
committed to promoting an environment of healthy athletic competition that is consistent with
current health department and the Center for the Disease Control guidelines.” The PIAA Sports
Medicine Committee will be meeting this weekend for further discussion.
Modifications to the tournaments will include limiting team and spectator parties, health recertification by authorized medical professionals and changes to game day procedures.
Additional direction to competing schools will be provided over the coming days in consultation
with school administrators, local, state health and governmental authorities.
Update 2 p.m.: The Allegheny County Port Authority is taking extra precaution to make sure its vehicles and facilities stay clean. According to a release:
Out of an abundance of caution, growing public concern, and the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases across the nation, Port Authority will immediately begin disinfecting “high touch” surfaces on buses and light rail vehicles every 72 hours. Surfaces inside major transit stations will be disinfected daily.
“High touch” surfaces include poles, pull cords, hand straps, the tops of seats, fare boxes, ConnectCard machines, escalator handrails and elevator buttons. ACCESS service providers will clean paratransit vehicles on a daily basis.
“The safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority, and we are committed to doing what we can until this situation is contained,” said Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman.
Increasing the cleaning schedule to once every 72 hours comes in advance of the agency activating its Pandemic Plan. Should Port Authority need to activate its Pandemic Plan, crews will disinfect vehicles on a nightly basis. Like many transit agencies nationwide, Port Authority’s fleet of buses and light rail vehicles are swept nightly and wiped down with a disinfectant cleaner once every 30 days.
“Before making this decision, it was critical for us to make sure that we had the supplies and employees available to keep up,” Kelleman said. “While we’re doing our part to protect the communities we serve, riders are strongly encouraged to follow the personal hygiene tips provided by the Allegheny County Health Department and the CDC to help keep themselves and their fellow riders healthy.”
Update. 1:40 p.m.: Breaking now: The NHL has just “paused” the remainder of its regular season and Major League Baseball has suspended all operations due to the Covid-19 virus. In addition, the NCAA has announced it will hold of its tournaments without spectators Major League Soccer has suspended operations for 30 days and the PGA says this weekend’s Players Championship will go on, but without spectators.
The NHL pauses the 2019-20 season. pic.twitter.com/bCi776ZFqX
— NHL (@NHL) March 12, 2020
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 12, 2020
Update. 11:00 a.m.: Point Park and Carlow University cancel face-to-face classes switching to online only.
A statement from Point Park University:
“Point Park University has followed the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect the safety and well-being of the Point Park University community, which remains the University’s highest priority.
At this time, there are no confirmed cases on the Point Park University campus or in Allegheny County; however, the virus continues to spread globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a pandemic, a term the WHO warns not to take lightly or carelessly because, “if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over.”
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the virus and its transmission, the University will take further action to protect our campus community.”
A statement from Carlow University:
“Carlow University remains committed to supporting the health and vitality of the university and to communicating the latest available information about the coronavirus and its potential or real impact on the campus community.”
News for March 11, 2020
Update. 10:24: In light of the NBA’s season suspension, the NHL says it is reviewing its options and will have more information tomorrow.
Update. 9:40 pm: The NBA has suspended the remainder of its season after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. Gobert tested positive for the virus just days after mocking the NBA’s policies implemented to slow the spread of the virus.
The NBA’s move will have many locals wondering what will happen to the Penguins and the NHL season.
Update. 8:30 pm: Tom Hanks, who portrayed Mr. Rogers last year in Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, has tested positive for the coronavirus in Australia
Update. 645 p.m.: Allegheny County Port Authority cancels remaining five public meetings. According to a press release:
Due to growing concerns over the COVID-19 virus, Port Authority of Allegheny County has canceled its four remaining community engagement meetings, including a meeting that had been scheduled to take place this evening in Oakdale.
Port Authority has held five meetings in its series entitled “Public Transit: A Community Discussion” in downtown Pittsburgh, East Liberty, Millvale, Monroeville and McKeesport to provide information and solicit feedback about upcoming transit projects throughout Allegheny County. The remaining meetings, which had been scheduled through late April, will be rescheduled.
In the meantime, residents can watch a recording of an earlier meeting, review the presentation, and submit feedback at www.PortAuthority.org/GetTogether.
“Although there have been no presumptive cases in Allegheny County at this time, we decided to cancel the remaining meetings to make sure we were not causing anyone to take unnecessary health risks,” said Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman. “I have full confidence that we’ll be able to reschedule these meetings and continue to engage communities throughout our region.”
Update. 6:30 p.m.: Local colleges and universities, including Pitt, Penn State, Slippery Rock, Edinboro, Penn State and, likely others soon, have extended spring break and when classes do start back up, they will be online.
“I am writing to you today to share the latest decisions that the University of Pittsburgh is making in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher wrote in an email to the “university community.” “This is an unprecedented scenario for U.S. universities. It is a situation that is changing dramatically—and daily. Compounding this scenario are substantial unknowns about the virus, its spread and its potential to impact everyone. This high degree of uncertainty makes planning difficult.
” The steps that we are now taking include: Replacing in-person instruction with online and alternative learning options at all five Pitt campuses [and] requesting that students not return to University housing if they have this option.”
These were just the latest in a day filled with announcements about precautions from various entities. One of the biggest announcements was the cancellation of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday.
Today the City of Pittsburgh also announced:
- The cancellation of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting planned for March 24-25
- A ban on all international air travel by employees for City business, and a ban on national travel unless it is approved by the Mayor’s Office
- A ban on all City government-affiliated meetings of more than 50 people
- Ongoing work by Chief Operations Officer Kinsey Casey on Continuity of Operations planning should large numbers of personnel not be able to come to work, including work-from-home plans, and reviews by Innovation & Performance officials of the City’s technological capacities
The Allegheny County Department of Health issued the following safety guidelines:
Avoid large events and mass gatherings, as well as other settings where you would have close contact (within six feet) with a large group of people.
Continue proactive hygiene measures such as washing your hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and frequently cleaning highly-touched surfaces.
Stay home if you are sick and call your primary care provider to discuss next steps.